alpine shabbat

Inside the Shabbat dinner at Davos

Roughly 175 people attend the invite-only gathering, held at the end of the week-long conference

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Davos, Switzerland

When the World Economic Forum in Davos concludes on Friday, some 175 attendees will wrap the week in a time-honored, millennia-old tradition: Shabbat dinner.

The annual Shabbat dinner held at the conclusion of the weeklong confab for the last 25 years is sponsored by the World Economic Forum and hosted by WEF founder Klaus Schwab and his wife, Hilde. (Schwab, for his part, once said the dinner is his favorite part of the gathering.)

“When it comes to Shabbos, it’s at the end of a week of intense meetings and networking and business,” Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, who has traveled to Davos annually for two decades and is involved in the planning for the annual dinner, told JI. “So then people come to the last important meal: It’s spiritual, it’s purposeful, it’s Yiddishkeit.” 

Israeli entrepreneur Yossi Vardi is a driving force behind the event, Berkowitz said. Prior to his death, Israeli President Shimon Peres was an annual staple at the dinner. Former Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat gives the d’var Torah, a role he took on following the death of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

“From heads of state to leaders of industry, emerging technology companies, Nobel laureates, academics, it’s an amazing amalgam of the amazing diversity of the Jewish people and friends of the Jewish people,” Berkowitz, who is also the president of AZ Advisors, explained.

While the guest list for the invite-only Shabbat dinner remains under wraps, Berkowitz noted that this year’s WEF boasts a host of high-profile Jewish figures, including Andy Jassy, Eduardo Elsztain, Orit Gadiesh, David Rubinstein, Steve Schwartzman, Jared Kushner, Marc Benioff, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Alex Soros, Rebecca Blumenstein, Adam Grant, Gary Cohn, Wired’s Gideon Lichfield, Israeli Chief Economist Shira Greenberg, Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Google’s Ruth Porat, OurCrowd’s Jonathan Medved, Edward Felsenthal and Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron.

While the Swiss Alps might not seem on its face to be a classic destination for observant Jewish travelers, the town boasts a long Jewish history, and has become a summer hotspot for Orthodox Jews looking for a getaway, with at least one fully kosher hotel, and a yeshiva that functions year-round for some 200 young men.

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